By the Family
May 24, 2017: Dr. Richard B. Weir, a longtime resident of Bronxville who was an English teacher and professor, passed away on Friday, May 12, 2017, at the Reformed Presbyterian Home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was 93 years old.
He was born in Larnaca, Cyprus, on December 28, 1923, to William Wilbur and Elizabeth Ewing Weir, who were serving in a mission school there. Growing up in Cyprus, which from 1878 to 1961 was a British colony, he became fluent in modern Greek (both the Cypriot and Athenian dialects) and was fairly fluent in a number of other languages, including Armenian, Turkish, French, Spanish, and some Arabic. In 1941, at the age of 17, he made his way on an American ship around the southern cape of Africa, across the South Atlantic, and then to New York. During that year, the German and Italian armies were attempting to conquer the eastern basin of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, and the German Navy and submarine fleet were dominant in the Atlantic Ocean. Providentially, Cyprus was not conquered by the Axis states, but World War II was a major event in his life, as it was for his entire generation.
He began his undergraduate education at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, in September of 1941. With the advent of American participation in World War II, he joined the United States Merchant Marine. He worked on merchant ships during the Battle of the Atlantic, moving supplies and troops across the ocean in convoys for the Allied offensive in Europe. Two major memories of that time were his trip to Murmansk, Russia, in 1944-1945 and the sinking of the Liberty Ship SS Robert L. Vann on March 1, 1945. In 1992, he received a medal for his participation in the Murmansk Convoy from the Russian Federation. He continued to go to sea during the summers from 1946 to 1960 and was licensed by the United States Coast Guard as a third officer for the United States Merchant Marine. His maritime and missionary experiences provided him with many stories that he told in the classroom.
He returned to Geneva College in 1945 and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1947. On June 28, 1947, he married Jean Crawford of Bronxville and was married to her for 58 years until her passing in January of 2006. Richard and Jean made their way to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he completed a master's degree in English literature in 1948. From 1948 to 1949 he was in the graduate program in the department of English at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. In 1950, he enrolled in the graduate program in English literature at New York University and ultimately completed a PhD in 1974.
His dissertation was titled "Thomas Sternhold and the Beginnings of English Metrical Psalmody." The original Sternhold Psalter was the first psalter used for singing in the emerging Protestant Church of England. The psalter was completed by Thomas Sternhold in about 1547 and was a predecessor to the more famous Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter that the Church of England used for over two centuries. During his time at New York University, he taught in the School of Commerce, worked for a while for the American Export Company, and in 1953 began teaching English at Roger Ludlow High School in Fairfield, Connecticut.
In 1955, he took a teaching position at Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, New York, where he served for 28 years, from 1955-1983. He was chair of the Department of English at Pelham High School from 1968 to 1974. After serving as an adjunct professor for eight years, he was appointed to the faculty of The King's College in 1983 when it was located in Briarcliff Manor, New York. During his 11 years there as associate professor of English, he was chair of the department from 1989 to 1994. He also was an adjunct instructor in the graduate division of Iona College from 1981 to 1984. While he was teaching in Pelham, he took on the position of manager of the Bronxville Cemetery, a cemetery owned by his local congregation. He served in that post from 1961 to 1992.
He was active in the Reformed Presbyterian Church at the local, regional, and national levels. For 62 years, he was a ruling elder in the New York City, and then the Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, Reformed Presbyterian Church, where he served as Clerk of Session for 60 of those years. He served as a member of the board of trustees of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and of Geneva College. He served as chair of the Non-Partisan Committee of the Village of Bronxville. He was also active in the American Field Service Exchange Program in both Pelham and Bronxville. He was a member of the Hollwegs Choir of Westchester and of New York City's Edwin O'Hara Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans Association. In his retirement, he took up the activity of building wooden boats and was able to complete four wooden boats, which he displayed to school children and others interested in that craft. In 2012, he took up residence at the Reformed Presbyterian Home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He is survived by three children, William J. (Rose), David A. (Bonnie) and Nancy J. Stombaugh (Ken). He is also survived by six grandchildren: Jennifer (Brian) George, Natalie (Daniel) Faris, and Janelle (fiancé Davis Robinson), Elise, Timothy, and Isaiah Weir. At the time of his death, he also had seven great-grandchildren: Tirzah, Keziah, Acacia, and Jordan George, and Samuel, William ("Liam"), and Isaiah Faris.
Visitation hours will be held from 6:00 to 9:00 pm on Wednesday, May 24, at the Fred H. McGrath & Son Funeral Home, 20 Cedar Street, Bronxville, New York. A funeral service will be held on Thursday, May 25, at 10:00 am at the Ridgefield Park Reformed Presbyterian Church, 310 Main Street, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey 07660. Interment will follow at approximately 12:30 pm at the Bronxville Cemetery, 18 Midland Avenue, Bronxville, New York. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 24, at the Reformed Presbyterian Home, 2344 Perrysville Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15214. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Reformed Presbyterian Home.